Thursday, February 5, 2009

hipsters chapter 3


“Alex, you surprised me,” Sarah said.
“Seriously, you did.”
“I’m full of surprises, I guess.”
“I mean I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“I don’t see how,” I answered, really looking at her. Fair skin, Auburn hair; it was Sarah Browne in the flesh and blood for sure. “I mean we used to come here all the time with my friends, and the witches that you call friends.”
“Heather and Dawn?”
“The very ones.”
“But still...”
“Maybe you just didn’t expect to see me tonight, while you were out with some guy,” I said.
“His name is Evan,” Sarah said.
“Of course it is.”
We were standing in the lobby of the Metro, and there really wasn’t a lot to say. There were certain sparks, I’ll admit, when I saw Sarah. Maybe they weren’t sparks. I mean how could you have sparks for someone who dumped you, and told you that they were never in love with you? They were more like pains when I saw Sarah. They were pains in viewing the physical presence of something that had passed. Sarah and I. A Saturday night at the Metro.
Only we weren’t together this time. This time there was some Evan character taking my place. Sarah and I would never have this time again. This little run-in was probably our last connecting point before we went off into our own worlds of college and the future, and we each became an anecdote in each other’s lives. Hell, I wasn’t even Sarah’s first. Some guy named Rick Davis beat me by three months. I might not even get anecdote distinction in Sarah’s future life.
“So what have you been doing with your summer, so far?” Sarah asked, although I had no clue why she was interested, or why she told Evan to go back to their seats so that we could talk. It seemed so useless.
“Oh, I’ve been living off the land. Hunting. You know, killing a lot of game for sport.”
“Reading Hemingway stories I bought you, again?”
“No, I burnt those books.”
Sarah pursed her lips. “Be serious.”
“I’ve been hanging around, I guess. I’ve been hanging with Noah and Karl, and spending time with all of those people at the cottages.”
She smiled. “You’re becoming quite the hipster.”
“Pretty soon you’ll be all emaciated, too. We’ll have to get you thick glasses and a fauxhawk, and maybe some tight jeans and an iPod. We’ll have to get you subscriptions to all the latest magazines. Maybe you could start a blog.” Sarah laughed. It wasn’t a mocking laugh. But still...
“I don’t think I’ll be getting or doing any of those things. And we won’t be getting me anything, remember.”
“I do,” she said, quietly. “I never wanted to hurt you.”
“I know,” I said. “And I kinda hate myself for realizing that.”
“Because...because it’s like realizing that you weren’t good least I wasn’t good enough for one person.”
“But it’s just one person, Alex. And it’s not about good enough, it’s about what’s right, what fits.”
“But it was you,” I said. “It was three years of you.”
Silence again. I had revealed too much. Really I wasn’t even sure what I felt about Sarah at that moment. I was sad more than anything. I was sad, hurt, and embarrassed. Seeing Evan, wherever he came from, made me feel replaced as well. I couldn’t even throw Amanda Evarts in Sarah’s face because she was technically with Calvin. Of course it wasn’t like I didn’t have the choice to do so. Amanda kept passing by the entryway to the dance floor, and a little bit in the lobby the whole time Sarah and I were talking. Finally, she took to hanging around about ten paces away. She looked like she wanted to say something. I was afraid of what Amanda Evarts wanted to say.
“Do you know that girl?” Sarah asked, after she caught me looking at her.
“Amanda Evarts,” I answered, blankly.
“The Amanda Evarts?”
“She’s with Calvin.”
“How is Calvin?”
“He’s Calvin.”
Sarah looked back at Amanda. She waved at the two of us. “She’s cute. Are you sure she’s here with Calvin?
“Well, I didn’t bring her, Sarah,” I said, angrily.
“Okay, calm down. I was just being polite.”
“Can we be done being polite for the evening?” I asked.
“Whatever you want, Alex.” Then Sarah and I were silent again. I counted ten seconds and not a word had passed between us. We just stood there, as if caught between the past and present of our lives. It was so awkward and not right, and it was even worse with Amanda standing off in a corner, waiting, doing whatever she was doing. “Look, I’m going to head back to my table now.”
“Wouldn’t want to keep Evan waiting too long,” I said.
“No I wouldn’t. It would be rude.”
“You were always one to consider someone else’s feelings first.”
“Goodbye, Alex. If I don’t see you, good luck at college,” Sarah said.
“You too.”
And then Sarah walked back into the club, and I was left with the ringing remnants of our last, trite conversation together. I was there losing her all over again. Why couldn’t I be more human? It always had to go down for me and people that way; the bridge always had to be burnt instead of just a little fractured. I looked at Amanda. She looked like she was trying to figure out the proper time to come over to me.
“Are you okay?” She asked, finally taking the plunge.
“Oh, you saw all that?” I said, sarcastically. Amanda was cute, sure, but damn if she wasn’t eavesdropping on my conversation.
“I wasn’t really paying attention. Is that the ex-girlfriend?”
“She’s pretty.”
“If you say so.”
“You don’t think she is?”
“Yes, I guess I do.”
“Anyway, the reason I’m out here is because Steve is missing.”
“Missing?” I said. “Steve’s an adult.”
“Yeah, I know that. But no one has seen him since he was on the dance floor with that girl in the red dress.”
“Maybe he doesn’t want anyone looking for him. Maybe Steve finally got lucky.”
She smiled a little bit at that. “Calvin’s worried about him.”
“Is Calvin looking for Steve?”
“Everyone is,” Amanda said. “That’s why I’m out here. I thought maybe you could help me.”
“Yeah,” I sighed, thinking of Sarah Browne with some fucking Evan guy, thinking of Amanda Evarts not being out in the lobby for me. “I probably could.”
Amanda and I went back into the dance floor portion of the Metro. We combed inches upon inches of the dance floor. People were groping and sweating all around us. Girls brushed up against me with the slick sweat of their bodies, and guys tried to grab at Amanda’s behind as we waded through them. Occasionally, I popped my head up, scanning the scope of the club, looking for Steve or for a girl in a red dress. No luck.
So I continued through the crowd, wondering why in the hell I was doing this in the first place. I didn’t owe Steve my friendship the way Calvin did. I felt like I didn’t owe any of these people anymore. In the sweaty, neon gloom of the dance floor, I was beginning to feel like a stranger to all of them. I stopped and I thought about hanging out with Noah and talking poetry and music, and how that stuff seemed to fulfill my needs now. And in the midst of a daydream I lost Amanda Evarts in the swirl of the club, and I found myself back out in the lobby, a greasy mess of teenage flesh and fabric.
“Al-ex Jav-or-ski! There he is!”
Steve was sitting alone on a round bench. He was pointing at me, and moving his body to the faint music coming from inside the cockles of the club. He looked wasted. His eyes looked small. His pupils looked heavily dilated behind his glasses. Steve was practically jumping out of his seat.
Where have you been?” I asked.
“All over, brutha! This place is hopping!”
“Where’s that girl you were with?”
Steve didn’t answer. He looked around incessantly. “Green Day?”
“This is Green Day playing!” Steve shouted, pointing up at the speakers. Then he rose and started jumping up and down, pounding his fist into the air. “Dude, I love Green Day!” But then just as quickly, he stopped moving. “Mushrooms?”
“That chick I was with brought in a jar of mushrooms.”
“And you had some?”
“Only a few. She said they’d make me feel good, but I didn’t see how a mushroom could get somebody high.”
“If they were drug mushrooms they could.”
“Drug mushrooms? Are they like smoking pot?”
“In a round about way,” I said. I sat on the bench. I took out a cigarette and lit it, gazing at Steve’s confounded face the whole time. “They’re more like psychedelics.”
He pounded his chest. “I don’t put stuff like that into my body.”
“You did tonight.”
Steve shrugged. “At least I’m not seeing pink elephants or something.”
Then he laughed. Steve had the most grating laugh. It was like rubbing sandpaper on a wet window. He began bouncing to the music again, as packs of girls howled and egged him on. Steve must’ve thought he was a God. He bounced and pumped his fist until the Green Day song ended. Then he fell onto the bench and continued to fidget.
“Will you do me a favor?” I asked. I got up from the bench and looked around the lobby for his red-dressed drug pusher. “Stay here while I go and get Calvin or someone else.”
“I’m not promising anything, brutha.”
Nobody was at our table when I got back to it. Another group of people had taken it over, and pushed all of our drink glasses to an unused corner. There wasn’t a Tom or a George in sight. They had all abandoned me in their search for Steve Scanlon. But then I saw Amanda and Calvin dancing slowly, as if the night’s energy had been seeped from their bodies, as if there was no one to look for in the first place. Was Amanda lying to me? Was I supposed to catch this scene and feel something? Jealousy? Oh, it was there. But what could I say? So I weaved through the various cliques of people, and walked back into the lobby to keep an eye on Steve.
But Steve was gone. There wasn’t a trace of him anywhere. I decided I didn’t care where he ran off to, or what other drugs he might get duped into taking. I didn’t care to walk back into that packed club to round up everyone, and set up a real makeshift search party. Let them all shake their asses, pop mushrooms, and go to hell. I felt truly and honestly tricked by the world. So I planted myself in the exact spot where I’d left Steve. I took a drag on my cigarette. I thought about Amanda Evarts and her sex-stomped gyrations, her coy glances, and even the brash ones. I thought about kissing Amanda so long and deep, that it would make everything else disappear. She was such sweet poison. I settled in to wait. And it took them an hour to find me.
I got forced into driving Steve’s Lexus, so that Calvin could sit with Amanda in the backseat. Steve talked nonstop the whole ride along Liberty Avenue. Back in Bloomfield he bragged about the Metro, mushrooms, and his elusive girl in red. She’d simply vanished after giving him the psychedelic mushroom, and Tom and George found him bouncing around on the second floor. He was in the above twenty-one club. Tom said the jerk was hanging around bothering an angry group of twenty-two year old administrative assistant types, dancing and pumping his fists, moving dangerously close to the railing. Calvin did his best to placate Steve’s exuberance along our ride. He joked badly and said dumb things, looking over at Amanda to see if she was amused. But from what I saw in the rearview mirror, Amanda Evarts stayed silent and looked worn-out.
We got to Steve’s giant house. I refused to do anymore to help, after undertaking the horror of driving some pampered kid’s luxury car through the Pittsburgh streets. So Calvin helped Steve out of the Lexus with the sort of laughing helplessness that begged for me to get out and assist. I didn’t. I thought Amanda might relent and help Calvin, but she stayed parked in her seat. And my two friends staggered the long weave of the Scanlon’s walkway. They looked like an old, romantic couple bathing in the moonlight. It was almost a comforting scene. Then the backseat rustled, and Amanda opened her door to get in the front with me.
“So, did we have a good night at the Metro?” I asked.
“It was all right. It would’ve been better had you come out and danced.”
“Sorry.” I looked at her, but she didn’t offer a smile. She remained steely and honest in what she had just said. “I’m not much for dancing.”
“Then I wish I hadn’t lost you on the dance floor when we were looking for Steve. There’s a lot more we could’ve done in that club other than dance.”
I swallowed hard after she said that. “Was Steve really lost?”
“As lost as anybody else,” Amanda said, with a smile. “You should’ve danced.”
“I know.”
“I would’ve made it worth your while.”
“I know.”
“Amanda, I think we should probably stop this bantering tonight.”
“Resume it at a later date?” she asked. “Like tomorrow?”
“I don’t know if that’s possible.”
“I don’t really want to get into it.”
“Because you’re still hung up on your ex, right? Well, Calvin told me all about her, and what she did was wrong. She should’ve never said the things she said to you.”
“I’m not that hung up on my ex. I mean I am a little.”
“It looked more than a little from where I was standing,” Amanda said.
“What can I say?”
“The truth.”
“It’s not even Sarah. It’s just.... It’s....” I tried to think about what to say without giving away Calvin’s feelings about Amanda, “just be my friend for now, okay?” I said. “I’m going through some strange stuff.”
“Friends are boring,” she said. “People have too many friends.”
Then she looked away angrily, for a moment. Amanda looked back at me. She grabbed my hand quickly, squeezed it, and we held on like lovers. I was consumed with her. Amanda’s strawberry and sweat scent filled Steve’s car. I wanted to open both doors, and take Amanda Evarts off into the Pittsburgh night. What was loyalty and friendship? She was right. Friends were boring. They were boring and needy, and people had too many friends. Then it startled me when Calvin knocked on the door. Amanda and I quickly let our hands go and she opened her car door. Had Calvin seen us?
“That damn Steve,” he said, as I got out of the driver’s side. “He still thinks he’s going out tonight. I had to have his mom and brother help put him to bed.” The three of us walked over to his Mini Coop. We got in and Calvin started the car.
“Steve’s a real winner,” Amanda said.
“I just hope he’s cool for the baseball game tomorrow.”
“What baseball game?” I asked.
“Pirates versus the Astros,” Amanda said.
Calvin turned back and smiled. “I got us all tickets.”
“You should’ve told me, man. I have to work.”
“You can’t get off?” he asked.
“Not now.”
“Call off.”
“If I call off, I don’t get paid.”
“Don’t worry, Alex,” Calvin said. “Calvin has you covered. Whatever you need, Calvin supplies.”
“It’s just not that easy for me, man. You’re gonna have to eat my ticket.”
Calvin laughed to himself. Amanda laughed too, but I stayed silent. I was pissed. Calvin supplies? What an insult. The whole ride back to Squirrel Hill I kept my mouth shut and my eyes closed. I think I fell asleep. I had great forgettable dreams. When I opened my eyes the whole of Phillips Avenue was looming around the car. I yawned and Amanda smiled at me. Calvin leaned back across his seat and grinned at me with his horse-like smile. The two of them looked like cackling jokers in the hazy wild blaze of a summer’s moon.
“Why don’t we come by after the game?” Calvin said.
“Maybe.... I might’ve made plans with Karl or something,” I said.
“He can join us,” Amanda butted in. “Come on, Alex. Maybe just coffee at the Eat’n’Park.” She looked to Calvin for confirmation.
“Coffee and sundaes!” Cal shouted
“All right,” I said. “I’ll see what I can do. But call me first, okay?”
“Okay,” Calvin said. “But if you change your mind about the game, call me by eleven tomorrow morning.”
“Don’t bet on it,” I said. “With college coming, plus a few other things, I have more expenses than time right now.”
“See you tomorrow, Alex,” Amanda said, as if all I’d laid out hadn’t made a dent on her. Cal was looking at me, so she blew me a kiss.
Then I stepped out of the car like a zombie, and the warm dampness of the night beat around my weary body. I swayed in a rare summer breeze. Where to now? I thought. I went to the other side of the car, and Amanda rolled down her window and we gazed at each other too long. She winked. Then Calvin blew the horn, and in an instant they were gone. Until maybe tomorrow night, they were gone. Then I began walking down Phillips toward Murray Avenue, Forbes Avenue, Noah and the Cage, thinking the saddest vision was the sight of red taillights as the people you cared about left you alone in the darkness of the night.

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